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Georgetown Scouting Report: Hoyas’ D, efficiency help hot start

Marquette will look to keep its 17-game home winning streak alive tomorrow afternoon when it takes on Otto Porter and No. 15 Georgetown. The Golden Eagles won their first conference game of the season Tuesday in an 82-76 overtime win over Connecticut, while the Hoyas have yet to play a Big East matchup, and haven’t played a game since Dec. 22, a span of two weeks.

The Hoyas boast wins over UCLA, Tennessee and Texas, took No. 1 Indiana to overtime and was beating No. 10 Florida on Opening Night until condensation cancelled their matchup, like it did with Marquette and Ohio State. Georgetown has gone from unranked to No. 15 in the country, a testament to John Thompson’s ability to work with a relatively unbalanced roster.

This author’s choice for Big East player of the year, sophomore Otto Porter, has been nothing short of fantastic in his second year. Forgive the hyperbole, but the 6-foot-8 forward does a bit of everything: 13.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.4 blocks, 2.2 steals, 1.0 3-pointers, 1.5 fouls in 33 minutes per game. The list goes on, but Porter is an inside-out threat rounding out defensively.

The increased production of junior point guard Markel Starks has been impressive, as his numbers are up in every category from his sophomore year, just as those numbers were up from his rookie year. He’s playing within the offense, but his outside shooting has seen an uptick to 44 percent from beyond the arc (15-of-34) and is averaging a team-best 2.2 steals per game.

Steve Taylor's presence inside will be a major factor against the lengthy Hoyas.

Steve Taylor’s presence inside will be a major factor against the lengthy Hoyas.

Greg Whittington may be the tallest “two-guard” in the country — Thompson starts four forwards and Starks — but the 6-foot-8 sophomore has produced as a scorer, averaging 12.5 points and 7.3 rebounds in a team-high 35.3 minutes per game. He’s only hitting at a 29 percent clip from beyond the arc, but has taken a team-high 48 of them in 11 games.

Waiting in the paint will be 6-foot-8 junior Nate Lubick and 6-foot-9 Mikael Hopkins, both of whom average near a block and a steal per game. Each averaging a respectable 7.4 and 8.5 points, Hopkins is getting to the free throw line at an astonishing rate (his 7.1 fouls drawn per 40 minutes are 20th in the country) and Lubick has been, like all Hoya bigs, extremely effective in his role.

Two more youngsters off the bench, sophomore shooting guard Jabril Trawick and freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, could see extra time if Marquette’s smaller lineups — now including Todd Mayo — prove too quick in transition. 6-foot-6 wing Stephen Domingo has averaged 12.3 minutes his last four games after averaging 6.1 minutes his first six games. He’s another candidate, off the bench, to see extended minutes.

Where the Hoyas are good

Aside from allowing teams to shoot 33.2 percent from beyond the arc — close to the 33.4 national average — Georgetown’s defense has been superb. It may not be on the level of a Louisville, Syracuse or Cincinnati, but it’s darn close. The Hoyas’ tall and lengthy rotation — according to KenPom, the 7th tallest — is allowing teams to shoot under 40 percent from inside the arc, the 11th best mark in the country. They’ve held five of 11 opponents to 50 or fewer points, are generally staying out of foul trouble (minus Hopkins) and, without much offensive success — have rode the defense to 10 wins in 12 games.

When the Hoyas are clicking, the passes are crisp and they’re getting open looks at the basket. That’s been the case for the most part, as they are hitting at a 46 percent clip as a team, and assisting on 62.7 percent of made field goals (25th best in the nation). The losses of seniors Henry Sims and Jason Clark have meant less trips to the line, the spot the offense has faltered this season.

Where the Hoyas can be beat

A slow pace and great defense means low scoring, and that can put the Hoyas into a lull at times. Look no further than Nov. 30, when they took down Tennessee, 37-36, at home. A week later, they exploded for 46 points against Towson, winning by six. As a whole the offense has been better than average, though highly inconsistent, but because of the potential for a clunker offensively, it’s a weak spot on an otherwise solidly-built team.

For a team missing two-thirds of its 3-pointers, the Hoyas are not very aggressive on the offensive boards. Part of that could be all the moving parts of Thompson’s motion offense, but there’s no 7-foot center in the middle to haul in misses this year. Granted, four 6-foot-8 forwards isn’t a bad compromise, but they don’t crash the glass as hard as last year’s team.

Three keys to the game

1. Paint touches…

…but not necessarily from Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson. Those would help, but it will be up to the guards, specifically Junior Cadougan and Vander Blue, to knife Georgetown’s zone and reverse the ball for open looks. They won’t come easy, but Marquette needs as many good looks as possible.

2.  Keep Steve Taylor Jr. on a roll

The Chicago freshman scored nine points on 4-of-5 shooting against UConn, including two nice moves inside and a pure 15-footer from the elbow. Against such a lengthy Georgetown team, Taylor’s minutes should near the 12 he played against the Huskies on Tuesday, if not more. Juan Anderson’s versatility will be important, and any perimeter looks from those two would be a bonus.

3. Rattle the youngsters on the road

It’s the first true road game for the Hoyas, and with a rotation that includes two freshmen, four sophomores and two juniors, a quick start could go a long way toward controlling the pace the rest of the way. Marquette has won 17 straight at the Bradley Center; to make it 18 they’ll need to feed off the crowd.

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